A collection of things we love for October 2021. We’ve made quite the list between Rosie and myself in all our lockdown spare time. We hope you find something to enjoy!
READ | Educated by Tara Westover | RL
I am making a big call, but this memoir is so exceptional, even those people who hate memoirs will enjoy it. Tara grew up in rural America, with a life so challenging the facts seem outrageous enough to be fiction. After a childhood of working in a junkyard she strives to change her path and began an education journey. Self-learning her way into the classroom at seventeen, eventually going on to study at Harvard and Cambridge. This coming-of-age story goes to the heart of the privilege of education and all that it has to offer. But it is Tara’s resilience, family relationships, growth and internal struggles that make this book captivating. Difficult to read at times due to the sheer horror, Tara’s authentic accounts have the ability to bring your emotions along for the inspiring journey.
Verdict: Tara Westover is 98% Grit.
LISTEN | We are supported by…. | RL
Celebrities are not typically my thing, but there is one HUGE caveat, Kristen Bell and her sloth loving antics (if you know, you know). It started with Veronica Mars, it Peaked with The Good Place, she can do no wrong. We are supported by is a 10-episode podcast series from Kristen and her best pal Monica who is a podcast legend in her own right. Each episode features exceptional women, shattering ceilings in their fields. There are some obvious big ticket guests (Oprah, Reese, Gloria, Kim K, Sheryl, Malala), but the candid chats drive these conversations to be unlike you have heard before. I even had to check my own bias, originally skipping over the KKW episode and boy… was I case in point on her media portrayal discussion. The diversity of scope and honest accounts are what makes this podcast incomparable.
Verdict: The Future is Female
WATCH | Maid | DS
I binged this baby the weekend it was released on Netflix. Even the title, a play on words, is fabulous. I wrote a longer review on this, but in short the show follows Alex (Margaret Qualley) as she struggles to leave an abusive relationship with her daughter Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, who is a trooper through the whole thing), whilst caring for her free-spirit, artist mother (Paula, played by Andie MacDowell who is also Margaret Qualley’s actual mother).
There is a string of fleshed out female characters, each providing depth and dimension to the story and framing the very real struggles throughout. Danielle (Aimee Carrero) the fellow domestic violence survivor, who keeps going back to the husband she is so fearful of (…the shows constantly throws off our expectations and biases, which is something I loved. You picture Danielle with some fiery Latin guy like herself, only to find he is this super plain, kinda hipster looking white dude). The so-called friend Tania (Christie Burke), who essentially goes missing in Alex’s life when she leaves Sean, Denise (BJ Harrison) the DV shelter director – constant, calm and world-weary, and Regina (Anika Noni Rose) who Alex bonds with through loneliness and motherhood – another diversity bender who has achieved ultimate white capitalist feminism as an African-American high-flying lawyer. Alex and Regina’s eventual friendship is my favourite.
Clever is the theme of domestic violence, depicted here in its more subtle form. A trauma that Alex herself refuses believe (despite experiencing it) to begin with. Clever too is the non-superhuman depiction of her talent as a writer. She’s not some once-in-a-lifetime sports champion rising out of poverty to go to college. She’s no future Jane Austen. She is just a girl that likes writing and therefore her escape to college is moreso about the barriers of poverty, than the skills of some exceptional talent.
The inter-generational poverty and the way different people experience poverty is timely. For Maddy it means instability and a tough start to her education. The kid spends a lot of time in the car. For Alex it’s living hand to mouth and on a knife’s edge – a roof over their heads each night is no guarantee. For Paula she’s homeless and penniless at retirement; whilst the men through her life are fine, she is reliant on others.
I’m left with no sympathy for the men. Firstly, Sean. We are told about his childhood trauma, but you feel like he sees this as an excuse. Alex’s Dad has found God, is obviously trying to atone for his past with a new family and yet the moment Alex asks for help – he won’t. And Nate…plays the hero, then the charity goes out the window the first time she fucks up because he sees her as spoiled goods (what a dick!)
There is a slight feeling of catastrophizing, where soap opera style bad things keep happening, yet everything is so realistic and the hurts so minuscule (if you weren’t living on a knife’s edge) that it’s all so believable. That makes the story so compelling and strong.
Stand out performances from Margaret Qualley and Andie MacDowell. As well as Anika Noni Rose as Regina. Special credits to the C*nt House.
Verdict: Must Watch
WATCH | Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb | RL
It has been a hundred and twenty-seven years of South Australian women having the right to vote and a hundred since the first woman was elected to parliament. While a century sounds like enough time for the leaders of the nation to have sorted out equality in the ranks, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I am the first to admit that I am not overly invested in politics (absolutely a privilege I need to check), but watching the response to Brittney Higgins awful ordeal has set a fire. In this exceptional series, Annabel Crab interviews women across the spectrum of political views. Many of which for the first time, speak openly about their experiences with gender in the public, the parliament, the parties and their private lives. The eye-opening accounts range from the lack of female bathrooms to the exceptional work by female senators crossing party lines to change abortion laws. These women ooze grit and grace as they recount challenges that are eerily similar.
Verdict: You may not align with their politics, but you will admire their resilience.
WATCH | Starstruck | RL
We know life has been rough, we know most of our recommendations fall on the ‘heavy’ side, we know everyone loves a romantic laugh, we bring you Starstruck. Rose Matafeo is the lead, a comedian from New Zealand, she is relatable and hilarious in her accidental fling with a British film star.
Wouldn’t it be exceptional to start everyday with the vibes of the first minute and a half of episode two (pictured)?
Verdict: Need something light? Give it a go!
WATCH | Them | DS
Stumbled across this one on Amazon Prime. It tells the story of an African American family migrating to LA in the 1950s, a period known as the Second Great Migration (1940-1970) where over 5 million African Americans travelled from the south to the north-west. The vibe is very much in the vein of the movie Us (2019), from horror into slightly more fantastical themes towards the end of the series (probably my only dislike is that it gets a little mystical). However the story is chilling in that much of the ‘horror’ is real life lived experience for many who immigrated – harassment, racism, shonky loans, exclusion, isolation. Deborah Ayorinde, as Livia ‘Lucky’ Emory, is phenomenal. And I really liked how gender is portrayed in the series. Lucky’s husband (played by Ashley Thomas) definitely finds more acceptance than his wife – his engineering pedigree and therefore his money, accounting for a smoother transition into White America. Created by Little Marvin, with executive producer Lena Waithe.
The vintage look, feel, costumes, sets and fonts, are all completely on point.
Verdict: Nice if horror tickles your fancy with a dash of history!
WATCH | AlRawabi School for Girls | DS
Netflix delivers some Arabic content with this series set in Amman, Jordan. A number of themes are run through this 6-parter, including bullying (both the more traditional and cyber-bullying), women’s rights, the nexus of traditional and more liberal culture in Amman, religion, and relationships – particularly female friendships. From what I read it was pretty well received, however very differently between Western audiences and Arabic audiences with understanding around how patriarchal and ‘honour’ driven Arabic culture can be. I found it insightful. The school setting is stunning and I had many fond memories of Amman whilst watching the show.
Verdict: A different kind of young adult watch and probably better than the Gossip Girl reboot I’ve been slaying.
READ | Invisible Women | DS
Well – very late to the party on this and it’s been on my read list for a while. But if there is a book that will fill you with rage and frustration – it’s this! And I mean that in a good way. Caroline Criado Perez goes deep on data bias and how things in our lives are made primarily for men. I guarantee you will start to notice a hundred things in your day that are frustrating after reading this – with the newfound knowledge they are probably frustrating because they weren’t made with women in mind – from doors that are bloody too heavy, to IPhones that are too big to use one handed. Big takeaway from me was drug trialing and how little is done to test drugs on women, because like women’s hormones are an inconvenience or something…
Verdict: Literally a must-read. 10/10 would recommend.
READ | White Feminism | DS
White Feminism by Koa Beck will make you question how very white your feminism is. I know it has challenged me to think about how my thoughts and feelings on feminism have been shaped by the very white narrative that exists in our society. It will help you create space to think beyond your whiteness. And hopefully make you a better feminist. I know it has made me a better ally.
A great historical foundation and lots of ways in which to move forward.
Verdict: Challenge your biases today.
READ | The Glad Shout | DS
The Glad Shout, by Alice Robinson is another one I’m late to the party on, but finally got around to reading thanks to lockdown. Every now and then I read a story that is so poignant, I find myself thinking about it regularly. In recent years, for me this has included The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk.
The Glad Shout is a cut above. I can’t stop thinking about it. A near future that is slightly too real. As if bits of my everyday reality are fraying at the seams and Alice Robinson’s dash of dystopia is already here. I live for a dystopia, but this hits close to home, set in near future Melbourne.
The narrative is told through Isobel and it’s through her that the world forms and falls apart, until her and her family are pushed out by flood and storm to find refuge at the MCG. A country in disarray, yet familiar. Out home and yet something like a scene from my daily BBC Global News podcast. Eerily familiar and distinctly foreign.
Isobel’s relationship with her mother, grandmother and daughter weaves a story of love, hope and wanting. Infinitely relatable. Rich with detail so that you feel as though you are a silent partner following Isobel from her Nonno’s farm house to her Mum’s pristine inner city renovation. Her feelings about her daughter Matilda are particularly beautiful and sad. And there is a feeling of this unfinished thread of the story. With the future so bleak, what will the future hold for Matilda’s own children? Will there be a future? Why does Matilda exist when everything is so hopeless – or is she hope itself?
We are left in the end (spoiler alert) with Isobel’s attempts to flee to the safe haven of Tasmania. On a boat. A raft of refugees. The irony wouldn’t be lost on any Australian. We are left bereft. Hoping they make it. Hoping everything turns out ok. But is this our own fear about the future – a worry that we aren’t and won’t be ok? That this all too plausible end will be our end too?
And there is this underlying thread of vacancy and emptiness. Where is Isobel’s father? Why was her brother Josh so distant? Did Shaun leave, and remove himself? Or meet a tragic end? The strong male figure is Nonno and I can’t help but feel he is strong because he belongs to the past. A Utopian period where the struggle and hard times made life better and people stronger.
Until people simply couldn’t make things better anymore. Couldn’t create a better life. A cataclysm. The past’s destructiveness comes in slow waves. Too slow to notice the creep until it was there. Like the quiet ever present Bay.
Beautifully written. Karen is a killer character. Thought-provoking and prescient.
Verdict: 9/10 beauty
LISTEN | The Drop Out: Elizabeth Holmes on Trial | DS
Elizabeth Holmes – I’m intrigued by her obvious level of self-delusion. If you don’t know who Elizabeth Holmes is, she is a Stanford dropout who was lauded as the genius to diagnostic medicine in the same vein as Steve Jobs revolutionised computers and phones. She raised billions and was the first self-made female billionaire in the US, but her company Theranos and her invention – a revolutionised blood test that could be done on a pinprick of blood – was essentially a fraud.
Season one covers the story. But Season 2, airing now, is covering the trial that has started in California. A weekly blow-by-blow of how the trial is going. I’m captivated.
Lots of lockdown jogs ahead of me!